WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT POLICE BAIL.
By Akeju Olusegun.
The Black’s Law Dictionary defined bail as to procure the release of a person from legal custody, by understating that he shall appear at the time and place designated and submit himself to the jurisdiction and judgement of the court. Bail is a very important element in our criminal law system and is needed in order to ensure the protection of personal liberty of the citizens.
There are majorly three types of bail which are; police bail, bail pending trial and bail pending appeal. The most abused bail process is no doubt the police bail, which has necessitated this write-up. Often, people arrested randomly are asked to pay certain amounts of money in order to effect their release. Unfortunately, a good number of these arrested persons are largely ignorant of the legal seriousness of the statement “bail is free”. The statement in recent times seems to be a joke.
In order to protect our rights as provided for in Section 35 of 1999 Constitution, the constitution provides further in subsection (4) of Section 35, “…he shall (without prejudice to any further proceedings that may be brought against him) be released either unconditionally or upon such conditions as are reasonably necessary to ensure that he appears for trial at a later date”.
This forms a constitutional basis for police bail. However, this would have even been unnecessary where the provision of Section 35(5), which states that a suspect must be charged within a day where there is a court within 40km radius and two or more in exceptional circumstancs.
Also, Section 30(2) of Administration of Criminal Justice Act provides that “…the officer In charge of a police station shall release the suspect on bail on his entering into a recognizance with or without sureties for a reasonable amount of money to appear before the court or at the police station at the time and place named in the recognizance…”
The concept of bail has gained a new meaning as the police now use it as a form of fine or punishment, thereby, making them both the prosecutor and the judge; as well as a business enterprise. In my last visit to the police station, i witnessed some accused persons negotiating prices for their release, after spending days behind bars (some weeks).
The whole concept of police bail was based on the idea that a man should be released pending the time of investigation and to allow enough time to gather evidence in order not to violate his rights. So, the ordinary “pay so so so amount before you can be discharged or released” is a total embodiment of illegality and you have a right to resist such.
The “amount” as stated in the cited section of the ACJA, stands for a scale of what might be forfeited when a suspect jumps bail and not what should be given in order to be bailed. Where a surety is needed, the amount might be taken to mean the worth of the surety and where not, the worth of what the suspect might forfeit. A suspect jumps bail where he violates or goes against the conditions and terms of his bail.
Some nonentities in the Police might threaten you with charging you to court and end up forcing you to pay. It should be noted that what they are only trying to do is to make sure you pay the so called bail before their statutory deadline for keeping you or because they truly know their fate if you were taken to court. In such cases, it is most advised that you demand the service of your lawyer.
Some lawyers however, advise their clients to pay for the bail because of two things. First, because it has become a custom and secondly because the amount to be paid is far better than the cost and time of litigation.
Their positions are right but you as an accused, have better chances especially where you know for certain that you have done no wrong. The reason being that this constitutes a breach of fundamental human right which the courts are charged to jealously protect.The rightful steps to be taken is to file a petition against such officers concerned or report such act to an higher authority.
You also can contact the Legal Aid Council in your local government to intervene on your behalf or on behalf of your relative. You might as well ask your lawyer to take the right legal steps in securing your release with compensation and apologies.
BAIL IS FREE!
l am a student at the Faculty of Law, University of Ibadan. A stern believer in pragmatism and an advocate of fundamental human rights, limitations of rights, societal responsibilities and societal tolerance.